This past weekend, New York City FC traveled north to face CF Montréal. It was the first game for the Pigeons without Valentín Castellanos, and the team looked to prove they could play without the star player. In addition, it was the first of a three game road-trip, and three crucial ones too.
Meanwhile, NYCFC has been chasing the Philadelphia Union for a good part of the summer, and needs to find success during this trek of away fixtures. They wanted to extend their unbeaten streak too, which before the game stood at six games.
At the end of the 90 minutes, that unbeaten streak stood at seven games, for the Bronx side managed a 0-0 draw against their Canadian opponent. Although not ideal, they still earned a point on the road, and that was with an offensive performance the players would prefer to forget.
Nonetheless, Sean Johnson and his defense earned another clean sheet, and defensively the team was strong. While Montréal had 13 shots, they were limited to just one on target. Arguably, the cohesiveness of the backline limited the chances of the home side, and that was why they walked away with a point.
New York City FC drew 0-0 in Montréal despite poor offense
Still, New York City FC struggled offensively. For the first time in club history, the team was held to just two shots, and failed to have any on target. Not only did players like Talles Magno and Santiago Rodríguez have a lacklustre performance in the attacking third, but the team could not produce enough passes in Montréal’s side of the pitch.
To add, the crosses into the box were few, but mostly inaccurate. Héber did not receive enough passes in or near the box, and as a result, this led to a high lack of opportunities. Although, other offensive players should have taken chances, but this did not occur. The offensive effort had little to no gas, and it was embarrassing for an attacking side.
Thankfully, the defense came in clutch. As mentioned, the backline was cohesive and organized, and kept Montréal’s opportunities in check. They forced the home side to take flawed shots, and disallowed multiple opportunities. There were a few moments though where NYCFC was lucky, and their opponents completed missed clear-cut chances, including the 55th minute try by Mason Toye. The New Jersey born player only had Sean Johnson in front of him, and sent the ball sky high into the crowd.
While the Pigeons were unable to create scoring chances, head coach Nick Cushing thought the game showed the “character of the team”, and said the following to NYCFC.com:
"We have to show both sides of ourselves. We want to dominate games. You want to be able to have the ball and play and create chances, but the nature of this league means home advantage is huge. We want to be a team that can show both sides of ourselves, and defensively it was another game with a clean sheet. Although they had a lot of the ball it didn't think they had much - maybe one change from Mason Toye - but you know the others were half chances and so it was a really pleasing point because like I said in these games you have to show grit and determination to get something out of the game or to complete."- Nick Cushing
Undoubtedly, Cushing was pleased with the point on the road, but he recognized the offensive struggles. He alluded the players had to be more aggressive in the attack, and the lackluster attacking performance is why they did not walk away with more.
Then, there was some bad news during the game, for Maxi Moralez had to come off the pitch before the end of the first half. His status is unknown, and hopefully he just received a knock, and will be available sooner rather than later.
On the other hand, the early substitution led to all five Brazilian plays in the line-up at the same time: Héber, Gabriel Pereira, Magno, Thiago, and Thiago Martins. This only lasted for about 20 minutes, but this first time occurrence was definitely a cool highlight in the scoreless draw.
In the end, this was one match, and again, on the road. The performance was not ideal, but defensively the team got the job done. Of course, New York City FC must score goals away from home if they are going to compete for the top of the Eastern Conference. There are two more matches on this road trip, and as such, plenty of chances to show Major League Soccer both sides of themselves.